08/18/2017 – GO WEST, YOUNG MAN…

August 21, 2017

 

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Head into Loveland’s Historic Downtown and first impression is amount of street art and sculpture: not just “junk jewelry”, but a variety of murals and sculptures which add ambiance. (Remain unsure whether “Dogs”, placed in proximity of fire hydrant is someone’s idea of a joke). Amid oversized grain warehouses, am surprised as a Burlington Northern freight train stops street traffic to uncouple a boxcar just beyond town’s train depot.

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Along Loveland’s non-boutique shops, Verboten Brewery and a rising “Forum Mall” suggest disappointing change is inevitable.

 

 

 

Shift onto US-287 for a short ride into Fort Collins. As is happening in Loveland, Ft Collins is already no longer a “town”, but, rather, long, linear strip “mauls” with bunches of interchangeable chain stores (is it REALLY Wal-Mart alone reducing local owner shops?)

As street paving continues its theme of “let’s do some infrastructure projects” (where IS all this money coming from?) prowl downtown. A colorful community church; Library Park’s Community Creativity Center (also a historical collection of old wooden cabins); a “Fox” mural and young Samantha serving at Equinox Brewing ; children enjoying a splash fountain in Old Town Square (where a stop @ Ben & Jerry’s is enhanced as two pre-schoolers “rock & roll” in a mechanical auto). A variety of charming buildings and shops, cheek-by-jowl with downtown campus of Colorado State University.

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For unknown reasons, GPS routes me along farm-laced CO-14 to Ault, where head south on US-85 and into Greeley. Am unsure whether ol’ Horace would recognize the place… an intimidating sprawl of ugly commercial sections set off from lovely neighborhoods. Downtown parking impossible, so stroll scratched.

Do head down to Plattsville, where Fort Vasquez State Historical Monument has already closed. Bummer!

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08/17/2017 – HOW THE WEST WAS ONE

August 21, 2017

 

A perfect morning for exploring downtown to catch unpeopled streets of unusually individualized “boutiques”, a 1926 Chief Plaza Theater movie house, followed by wandering around Holmsted Park’s winter sports complex: an interesting sight – some 20 junior high boys and girls on rollerblades, propelling themselves with ski poles. Obviously not a competitive speed race: perhaps simply a training exercise?

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Amble a bit, along Yampa River Trail, observing folks fishing, young innertubers, bicyclists and dog-walkers, pram pushing young families – just a pleasant pace of living.

Try my luck venturing up toward hillside mansions. Variety and size among a wealthier set raise a question about whether these are year-round homes.

 

Back onto US-40, pass long, wide, green valley of lakes/ponds, farms/ranches into Routt National Forest’s steep hills.

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Pass Kremmling, but pause briefly in tiny Parshall, attracted by a simple church, and then, driving around, impressed at a small community church’s parking lot filled with pickup trucks, and lumberjack outfitted old men: a community lunch program? Drive through Hot Sulphur Springs (which, despite its funky hot springs resort, looks like an old mining town).

 

 

 

 

 

Arrive in Granby and am attracted to Never Summer Brewery, a hole-in-the-wall oasis, run by a middle-aged man from Iowa whose home brewing business never got airborne. His variety of beers (and his naming process) satisfy, and a trio from Fond du Lac/WI admit to visiting based upon a friend’s recommendation. Lunch at Mid Town Café, where a waitress from Romania shares enthusiasm for film “And Quiet Flows the Don” (book “Harvest on the Don” adorns their bookshelves).

Shift onto US-34, and pass huge Lake Granby and through Arapahoe National Forest’s many campgrounds. At Grand Lake, enter Rocky Mountain National Forest/Park, and drive (interrupted multiple times by road work delays) through territory which reminds me of Yosemite. Unfortunately, too frustrating a journey to risk getting out to find anything enjoyable. Estes Park again seems like one of those “vacation” towns where too many people congregate at one spot and begin a shopping/eating frenzy inconsistent with “getting away from it all”

Journey through Big Thompson River Canyon, impressed at beauty of gigantic rock formations (tilted striations must be a geologist’s dream) but reaching Loveland, am too tired to do much sight-seeing

 

 

 

 


08/16/2017 – TIME BEFORE TIME

August 21, 2017

 

Wander about Green River campground, a bit disappointed at having too little time to fully enjoy its beauty. (Having, years before, camped along river closer to Moab may be developing a “crush”).

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Spend some time at quarry and Visitor Center (where ranger suggests a lot of recent French vacationers here to view impending eclipse), amazed by dinosaur artifacts. (Guess they had to roam SOMEWHERE, but, imagining this now barren mountainous land, it is impossible to imagine this as a steamy jungle indicated by youthful history textbooks).

 

 

 

Venture over state line into “canyon” portion of this national monument, climbing high, only to be jarred by how much visibility variance airborne pollution hides. On this crisp, early morning, it is possible to “see forever”, yet roadside advice shows times when distant mountains and valleys cannot be seen.

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Press on into Craig, only to be disappointed it is not a “Western” town: simply a small rural town serving needs of “townies” and surrounding ranchers/farmers. A muraled antiques store suggest non-local travelers, and a Museum of NW Colorado reminds me of the courage of early settlers (no Wal-Mart; no cellphones; no Fox News). A converted church carries “Community Center” designation and West movie house each offer places to get together, but little foot traffic can be seen.

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Along US-40, a Wildlife Refuge provides a view of open space, but wildlife must be partying indoors. Yampa River, winding close alongside this highway offers a state park which looks lovely.

Over the years, have heard of Steamboat Springs, but imagined it an Aspen – Lake Tahoe kind of town.

Turns out to be different; and more enticing.

Very nice woman at Visitor Center encourages trying talent at miniature golf course just behind this building, but, am more intrigued by Old Town Hot Springs. A non-profit “spa” in midtown, multiple pools offer a range of “hot”: very warm to tepid. A steady stream of people traipses in and out: a semi-hidden teenage couple “making out”, a thirtyish mom encouraging her young son’s swimming, a young man mechanically performing laps, a few older men idly soaking up late afternoon sunshine.

A long walk along crowded main street, as groups negotiate dinner plans, and, finally, a bar-style meal in The Old Town Pub, where bartender Shawn expounds on buildings history as hotel, brothel and business place.

 


8/14-15/2017 – PAUSE WHICH REFRESHES

August 21, 2017

 

Through kindness of Little Rock friends Gina & Brett Pharis awake in splendor of Park City’s Newpark Hotel. Their condo unit, though compact, is a masterpiece of architectural planning, and forms a perfect spot to relax and catch up on some writing.

Park City sprawls across a small valley, and, as a skiing oasis has a customary collection of upscale shopping set against natural beauty. Artifacts of Olympic competition scar one hill, but Winter snows probably prove pristine. Also, as a film festival site, where better to be inside a theater in January?

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Dinner at Maxwell’s offers a mixture of families and young people casually dining al fresco, and a noisier, younger, “go where the livin’ is easy” (ala Newport Beach in CA) crowd clamoring in sexual competition.

Much relaxed, head for US-40 (being reminded that an earlier pause in Auburn/CA was also along this historic highway) and into Heber City (again, set in an awe-inspiring green valley). An abandoned church, converted to City Hall annex, catches my eye, but my real goal is down at Heber railroad station and “yards”.

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Though a regional “vacation” railroad for nostalgia buffs, its “yards” offer a collection of “rolling stock” and a surprising selection of large and small, “bits and pieces” needed for maintenance. Alas, a modernish depot reduces its any historical sense.

Climb US-40 again and understand how Eastern farmers found attractive these verdant valleys tucked between scalloped mountain ranges. Road repair delays allow absorption which might otherwise be missed racing past. Through rain-scented Uinta National Forest pine stands, interspersed with farms; past lake-sized “reservoirs”, van struggles over Daniels Pass (8020’), and pass attractive campgrounds.

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Pause briefly at Duchesne’s Eagle Park’s remarkable memorial to veterans of many wars. (For so small a town, a surprisingly attractive homage). Stop for dinner in Roosevelt, but am amazed that so modest a town features two first-run movie houses.

Pull into Vernal at dusk, but families crowd closing library and take pleasure from a tiny fair sited in “Dinosaurland”.

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Cap off my day, as darkness descends, shuttling between Jensen/UT and Dinosaur/CO searching for Green River campground of Dinosaur National Monument. Camp host offers me her final campsite, usually reserved for “handicapped”. Tonight feel it “earned”

 

 


RESIDUE – 2012

August 1, 2017

Am unsure just when the following was written. Had to be on a 2012 trip “through the ‘Red States’”, but am unclear about where, or even circumstances. That it appears now, is simply a realization that, in a small way, was observing what seemed to be a small illness which metastasized by Nov/2016.

THE SUMMER OF OUR MALCONTENT

With “this is the Winter of our discontent” Will Shakespeare introduces us to physically & psychologically deformed “Richard III”, as he embarks upon his reign of terror.

After two months along our West Coast & now just below our Canadian border, get a distinct feeling an awful lot of Americans are dissatisfied with their lot. (Admittedly, this is NOT a scientific experiment, It’s just listening & watching as people interact in grocery stores, gas stations, bars/restaurants, parks, campgrounds and tourist attractions.)

Start this journey carrying along “The Question”, that is “If you could sit down with each Presidential candidate, for just 15 minutes, what goals would you ask them to accomplish at a conclusion of their Administration?”

Over time, get a few “original” ideas, but most just regurgitate Liberal or Conservative rhetoric. (To what degree this rhetoric influences “action” remains open to conjecture, but, it certainly influences “speech”).

Curiously, it’s not “classical” politics. Yeah, there’s SOME (much of it “local”), but, more often, it seems a sense of “persistent dissatisfaction”.

Not too surprisingly, age/generation “frame” conversations.

Young people, married or single, seem unhappy with their “relationships”… whether emotional or financial. Many reasons emerge: but a common denominator is a sense of a future without sustaining “commitment”, supplemented with a sense “there’s not enough time to be ME”. Families with young children feel an additional burden: whether they will be able to provide adequately until their youngsters are self-sufficient.

To listen to them talk, no one likes their job/boss/pay/prospects, or whatever.

Older people indicate concerns about health (“slowing down”) & whether savings will be enough to maintain a sense of physical & financial independence.

(Now, an admitted disclosure – in homes, schools, offices, churches, etc., there may be a lot of happy, contented folks who do not grumble – at least, not publicly)

Part of what make this discourse dispiriting is the affluence which surrounds it: homes large enough to house princes; RVs the size of sailing ships; pick-up trucks as big as buses; sleek SUVs; shopping carts heaped high (a $240-ish grocery bill which would stop my heart in its tracks). Kids have braces on their teeth, signature footwear, and EVERYONE’S got a cellphone. Little League-rs sport pro-looking uniforms & gloves large enough to camp in. Fishermen have half-a-dozen fancy poles lined up. Campers grapple with Webers large enough to roast a lamb. (This is not just a “Land of Plenty”… it’s a land of PLENTY of plenty.)

So… why practice “malcontent” so aggressively? Dunno! Dunno!

But, failing to look beyond the local (e. g., urban homelessness; international terrorism) it seems a sad testament indeed. It seems Will may have been wrong… perhaps there is no single season for “discontent”.


8/5/2014 – Beer Solutions

August 13, 2014

 

 

Cousin Vince and I drink beer and solve world problems.

Cousin Vince and I drink MORE beer and solve MORE off the world’s problems.

Cousin Vince and I drink ALL the beer and solve ALL the world’s problems.

 

Given sufficient quantities of beer, wouldn’t we be more efficient than the UN and State Department?


4/21/2013 – A “Good Fortune” Day

April 22, 2013

Occasionally, Good Fortune falls upon me like a soft, Spring rain. Today was one of those days.

 Some of you may know my “home base” is in San Francisco’s “Western Addition”, which, before Pearl Harbor was a substantive Japanese-American community.

 At the beginning of WW II, they lost their homes, businesses, community and freedom. Family and dignity were shattered, as they were transported to detention camps in physical and psychologically inhospitable locales around the US.

 Thus, living here now, it is impossible to be emotionally and intellectually unaware of a community, which, notwithstanding their abuse, learned to forgive and resuscitate their cultural values.

 April, annually, brings forth “Japantown’s” Cherry Blossom Festival: a combination of serious historical significance as well as a “street party” and parade stretching over two “public” week-ends and many private and semi-private “in-week” activities.

 My specific “incentive” occurred as Kaiser’s Senior Advisory Council offered an invitation to a Sunday morning brunch across a street from our small “St Francis Square” community. (Our community of 300 racially integrated, middle-class families celebrates its 50th birthday this year. Across another street is the Chinese Consulate; across another, an affluent apartment highrise complex and condominiums. Behind us, a still struggling African-American community whose roots extend back to when, as Japanese were moved out, people of color were brought into a now vacated neighborhood).

 An extended preamble to our brunch, in a neighborhood hotel meeting room of some fifty tables, mostly Japanese-Americans of an age who would have lived through their dislocation. Some speakers would slip into Japanese, drawing applause and laughter, which went over some of our heads. A “Japanese jazz singer” (in her own words) invoked collective singing of a well-known Japanese tune (reminding me somehow that “Oh, Susanna” could evoke response at picnics within my own experience).

 Looking beyond the singer, though, were hundreds of well-lined faces, bring back images of a TV film “Return to Manazar” and artistic and photo-essay displays of how, even in detention, this culture created communities.

 My mind drifted back to a June day in 2007, when, after overnighting in Jerome/ID, headed out, on flat, two-lane ID-25 past miles of green fields, to Minidoka Internment Camp ruins.

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As with Manzanar, this embarrassing abridgement of citizens’ rights has offered little incentive to maintain these camps, so it would have been easy to drive by and hardly notice, except for a small National Parks sign, and, surprisingly, two huge “Greyhound”-sized buses.

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Walking back from my distant parking spot, was surprised to see multi-generational crowds emerging from these buses… silver-haired, conservatively dressed  “grandparents”, casually dressed “40-Somethings”, and a small array of youngsters and teenagers.

 Cameras being an “Open Sesame” for conversation, discovered groups from Portland/OR and Seattle/WA made an annual pilgrimage back to this site, which had been an enforced “home” for senior members of the tribe.

 Two Park Rangers drew this crowd into fields and, with aid from memories, recreated a physical and a psychological sense of life here in this barren wilderness.

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A water tower, a few wooden barracks-type buildings, an cottage-sized warehouse, and a small stone memorial are all that remain… but, somehow, memories began to rebuild a picture.

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It was difficult to catch names, so “George”, a tall, slim man, with bushy white hair beginning to bald on top, in wire-rimmed glasses, spoke of his youth in the camp: episodes of swimming in a small aquatic irrigation channel, climbing to the top of the camp’s water tower, slipping beneath a wire fence to explore.

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Someone else reminded “George” of the irony that, as local farms sent their young men off to war, a labor shortage brought many of the detainees into local farm fields. Reinforcing this (almost “on cue”) several station wagons approached, disgorged “occidental” seniors (who turned out to be local farming families) and a stumbling, memory-driven inter-racial “love fest” began a babel of stories and remembrances.

 Despite its attraction, there comes a moment recognizing myself as “voyeur”, and that these groups deserve to share their moments sans outsiders. So, slip away… reflecting that “good fortune” visited what might otherwise been a insular, analytical assessment… and turned it into a memory of great vitality, joy and humility (can NOT imagine my Irish ancestors coping so well).

 Thus, looking over a roomful of these elderly Japanese (some of who had been incarcerated at Minidoka, some 70-plus years before), honored at a brunch, seemed to be still another moment of grace in my life.